Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
With point guard Chris Paul's status listed as a game-time decision, Russell Westbrook's current tear could continue.
A battle for the NBA's best record might not include one of the league's best players.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (32-9) visit the Los Angeles Clippers (32-10) at the Staples Center on Tuesday, but Vinny Del Negro's team might be without point guard Chris Paul. The All-Star played on Monday in a loss to the Golden State Warriors, but in his second game back from a knee contusion looked hampered after going 1-for-7 from the floor. He could be held out and is listed as a game-time decision.
Paul's 16.6 points per game and 9.7 assists aside, playing on one good leg probably won't fly on defense against Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. He's recently gone on a tear, averaging 27 points per game through his last 10. It's gone a bit under the radar considering Kevin Durant's own scoring outputs of late.
Like Los Angeles, the Thunder is coming its own loss. Falling in overtime to the Denver Nuggets, Durant led the team with 37 points while Westbrook added 36 of his own to go with nine assists and eight rebounds.
The duo are most likely anticipating a big scoring night, especially with Paul's status in doubt.
Even if Paul is healthy, a hounding defensive effort by Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha in the Nov. 21 overtime loss to Oklahoma City led to the point guard struggling from the floor and hitting just 2-of-14 shots.
The Thunder and Clippers are both in the top 10 in offensive and defensive ratings, and each has a good deal of star power with Westbrook, Durant, Paul and Blake Griffin.
The battle in the paint will be overlooked in this one, but that's exactly where the game could be won. Oklahoma City had the advantage in the paint, especially off the bench, during the last meeting between the two teams as Hasheem Thabeet scored 10 points and did some damage against Los Angeles backup big man Ryan Hollins.
Though the Clippers' bench is perhaps the best in the league, Thabeet and Nick Collison might have the upper hand for the Thunder.
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Odds: The Clippers are two-point favorites.